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FALL 2008

taught with

Professor Terry Winograd


Brian Behlendorf

Course Description:


Our goal is to design ways of using communications, law, policy, and  technology to improve citizen participation in government decision-making practices. We will develop proposals to deliver to the 44th President of the United States.  While there are many good projects to undertake, we want to be ambitious and strive to effect change by focusing on those solutions to problems which the President can implement.

Project: Dangerous Toys Website Overhaul

Client: Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Problem: As it exists now, it is difficult for consumers to know whether toys in the marketplace are safe. While there are a number of product review websites out there, those do not take a critical look at only the toy’s safety; they are concerned with the price, the value, the fun or educational value the toy provides. In fact, there is no accessible, organized, robust clearinghouse to provide detailed and concise information on potentially dangerous toys for citizen consumers.  Instead, the government agency that oversees toy safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), attempts to track potentially dangerous products with an antiquated database system, undermanned staff and inefficient data-gathering techniques.  We see the potential for change to be great—and we are sure that our solution will provide the greatest range of uses and benefits.

Project Description: We propose the creation of a website that will allow consumers to interact with the government directly: by posting videos, pictures and written complaints about potentially dangerous toys.  A non-profit organization, the Consumer Products Safety Organization (CPSO) will be created with the goal of working with the governmental CPSC to monitor unsafe products. The website will include a searchable database that will allow consumers to track the safety records of specific toys as well as submit complaints and add visual or written evidence about previously submitted items.  This database will help CPSC officials more closely monitor toy safety and help them better track—and pull from the market—unsafe toys.


Client: United States Patent and Trademark Office
The Problem: Government agencies lag behind the private sector in administrative, communicative, and financial efficiency.  Government agencies are spread across vast geographic regions; communication between different regions and departments is often minimal and inefficient. There are no efficient means for agency leaders to communicate with and receive feedback from employees on all levels of the agency. Furthermore, lower ranking employees have no method to communicate directly with similar employees in other regions, to collaborate and learn from one another. Lack of communication inevitably leads to frequent parallel processing where multiple groups across an agency(ies) could be working on similar or identical problems with no knowledge of each other’s efforts.  This independent, parallel processing leads to slow, frequently redundant work that consumes valuable time and resources. 
Project Description: is a powerful networking and collaboration platform. It will create a government community that connects personnel across different geographic, experiential, and occupational demographics. will allow employees to learn from the past experiences of others, reduce parallel processing, and provide the tools to work together to accomplish tasks in a more efficient and effective manner. Many people have great ideas that are waiting to be heard. embraces modern technology to connect these great ideas with the people that benefit most. Once established, the power of will only continue to grow as a wealth of information is accumulated and delivered to those in need - to learn from, build on, and move business forward. 

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